Nevada voters must register their party affiliation before caucusing – Democrats on Feb. 20, and Republicans on Feb. 23. Nothing about this is unusual for a closed caucus system, but there is one interesting blip.
The Democrats allow same-day registration for their caucuses tomorrow, but Republicans closed their registration on Feb. 13. Therefore, any Republican who registered by Feb. 13 can show up at their caucus tomorrow, register as a Democrat, but still also participate in the Republican caucus on the 23rd. How? Well, the party switch would not show up on the GOP caucus rolls. Clark County Voter Registrar Joe Gloria confirmed the possibility.
Nevada’s caucus system has not been challenged, but other states have faced legal challenges to their primaries in the past. For example, in 1996, a voter referendum changed California primary rules to create “the blanket primary.” Under this system, the ballot listed all the candidates, and voters were able to choose a Republican in one race and a Democrat in another. The person with the most votes from each party on the ballot advanced to the general election.
However, in 2000, the Supreme Court found this system violated a political party’s freedom of association rights. California subsequently got rid of blanket primaries. In 2002, The U.S. District Court in Atlanta threw out a case challenging Georgia’s open primary system, holding that open primaries are legal because they require voters to choose candidates from only one particular party for all races. Even the smaller parties have challenged primary elections. The Libertarian and Green parties feel California’s top two primary system keeps their parties’ members from ever being named on the general election ballot. Residents in New Jersey even argued the state’s closed primaries (similar to Nevada) unconstitutionally disadvantage those who vote independent.
Would crossover voting like this even have a major effect on primary and caucus outcomes? Primary crossover is rare. California allowed crossover voting in the 90s, and political scientists found it had little to no influence on election outcomes.
Of course, losing candidates have claimed in the past that crossover voting caused their defeat. I should note, however, that there is no evidence to support that crossover voting leads to deliberate sabotage. Even so, Georgia Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney, who suffered a 16-pt loss against her primary opponent, Democrat Denise Majette, claimed that thousands of Republicans voted for Majette.
And in 2008, Rush Limbaugh prompted Republicans to launch “Operation Chaos” Although the conservative talk show host merely wanted to cause a shit show in the never-ending Obama-Clinton Democratic presidential primary, the effect was debatable. This happened again in 2012, when liberal blog Daily Kos attempted “Operation Hilarity,” urging Democratic readers to vote for Republican candidate Rick Santorum in order to complicate the GOP primary for the eventual nominee. However, Santorum’s campaign actually contacted Michigan Democrats, asking them to vote in the Republican primary to make it more difficult for Romney. Although 9% of Michigan GOP primary voters were Dems, and over half voted for Santorum, Romney still won the primary and, later, his party’s nomination.
However, in Mississippi’s 2012 primary election, anyone who voted Democrat in the initial primary was ineligible to vote in the Republican primary.
It makes sense for Nevada to institute this rule (especially if Republicans are not offering same-day registration to attempt to even the score).
The moral of the story is that yes, Republicans can vote in the Democratic caucus on Saturday. To what end? It seems that Republicans hate Hillary more than they are afraid of Bernie, so the chatter out here in the desert is that Republican operatives are going to show up to caucus with a fake “bern” on them. On the other hand, the latest Quinnipiac poll shows that Bernie is more electable than any current Republican candidate.
I was a registered Republican until about a week ago. I’m caucusing for Bernie tomorrow. Depending on how slow the Republicans are to update my information, I might be able to also pull off caucusing for Trump as well (yeah, Bernie is my first choice, and Trump is my second choice). But, if do, I would only do so to watch the shit-show. While it might be legal to double-caucus, something about it doesn’t pass the smell test for me.
But I’ll be damned if I’m going to give up the opportunity to watch something as entertaining as a Republican caucus with the current field of candidates.
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